In YA Book Reviews on February 26, 2014 at 3:28 am


by Pat Schmatz

Realistic Fiction/©2011/226 pages/Recommended for Ages 11 and above

Publisher’s Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Travis has a secret: he can’t read. But a shrewd teacher and a sassy girl are about to change everything in this witty and deeply moving novel.

Travis is missing his old home in the country, and he’s missing his old hound, Rosco. Now there’s just the cramped place he shares with his well-meaning but alcoholic grandpa, a new school, and the dreaded routine of passing when he’s called on to read out loud. But that’s before Travis meets Mr. McQueen, who doesn’t take “pass” for an answer–a rare teacher whose savvy persistence has Travis slowly unlocking a book on the natural world. And it’s before Travis is noticed by Velveeta, a girl whose wry banter and colorful scarves belie some hard secrets of her own. With sympathy, humor, and disarming honesty, Pat Schmatz brings to life a cast of utterly believable characters–and captures the moments of trust and connection that make all the difference.

My Thoughts:

A very engaging read – I could not put it down, and I did not want it to end. The characters jump off the pages, and I just loved them – Travis, Velvetta, and Bradley are memorable, unique individuals who each have a story to tell. I also liked that every other chapter was Velvetta’s perspective. As a retired teacher, I especially appreciate how teachers are depicted (Mr. McQueen especially makes me proud!) and that a number of novels are alluded to in Bluefish (most frequently, Haunt Fox by Jim Kjelgaard, the book Travis learns to read with, and The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak, which Velveeta reads.) There may be a few loose ends when the story concludes, and normally that would annoy me. However, for this book and for me, the ending was enough. Mostly, that is because I can’t help but believe that Ms. Schmatz will come out with a book about Velvetta that will complement this book, and also because I think the author supplies ample material to allow the reader to imagine what happens from there. All in all, a beautifully written book; a quiet gem that packs a punch.

Companion Books: Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt

 My Rating: 5/5 Stars

 Related Information:

Book Trailer by the author

Review with Helpful Middle School Teacher Suggestions

Discussion Notes


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: